More than one week after elections were held across the country, St. John’s waits, along with the rest of the country, to learn the result of the most important race – the race for president.
Controversy began Tuesday night when several news organizations reported that Al Gore had won the state of Florida and its 25 electoral votes. That decision was later reversed and at 2:15 a.m., it was announced that George W. Bush had won Florida, and the election, by a slim margin. Later that morning, the networks took the state back again, saying the race was too close to call.
The confusion didn’t end there. For the past week, the two campaigns have been engaged in an intense battle over voting procedures in Florida. The Democrats have asked for a hand-recount in several Democratic counties. They have argued that the ballots in Palm Beach County were not aligned properly, which caused more than 19,000 people to accidentally choose two candidates for president. Those votes could not be counted.
Many also questioned the fact that Pat Buchanan received an inordinate number of votes in Palm Beach, almost three times the amount he received in any other Florida county. Republicans pointed out that another Reform Party candidate also received an unusually large number of votes in Palm Beach.
Some students at St John’s agree that the issue is troubling. “I think they should let them revote,” said Amanda James, a junior and finance major. “I don’t like the fact that they threw out all those votes.”
Robert Dooley, a freshman education major, disagreed, saying that the voters had an opportunity to complain about the ballot on Election Day. “I think those people who supposedly misvoted should not vote again,” Dooley said. “I think the recount should be final.”
Anthony Katsoulakis, a freshman finance major, said that there should be a revote. Recognizing that there is little chance of that happening, he said, “The best thing would be to do a hand count in all the counties.”
The consequences of this unusual election could be felt far into the future. Dr. Robert Pecorella, head of the department of government and politics in St. John’s College, said that the close election will probably be forgotten as the administration goes on. He pointed out that John F. Kennedy won the 1960 election by only 116,000 votes. However, Pecorella also said that it might become a problem if people feel cheated by the result. “If it’s close and you lose, and you think you won, that’s a different story,” he said.
Many questions arise from this unusual situation. Dr. Thomas Curran, assistant professor of history in St. John’s College, doesn’t believe that it will cause a constitutional crisis. “I don’t see it as a constitutional crisis,” he said. “I believe the courts will back away from this sensibly.”
Curran also said that the future of the Electoral College is in danger. “I think it’s probably on its way out. It’s an anomaly whose time has come.”
Pecorella disagreed saying that three-quarters of the states would have to agree to the constitutional amendment that would be necessary to get rid of it. “You will not get three-quarters to agree to get rid of the Electoral College, because more than half the states benefit from it,” he said.
On Tuesday, the state of Florida completed all counting and certified its results. With 4,000 absentee ballots still pending, Bush is ahead by only 300 votes.
The Gore campaign has not yet ruled out the possibility of a lawsuit should Bush be victorious. The Bush campaign is urging Gore to accept the results after the absentee have been counted.
No matter which man is elected, he will have to work towards uniting a politically divided nation. “At this juncture, either man when they come into office, they will face serious partisan attacks,” Curran said.
Curran said that the country will not benefit from this controversy. “It’s not a good thing for the nation to go through this kind of crisis, especially after the Clinton impeachment,” he said.